Finding Aids > Letters from Irish Emigrants and others, put in by Sir Robert Gore Booth Bart: [1846-1849]

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Letters from Irish Emigrants and others, put in by Sir Robert Gore Booth Bart: [1846-1849] 

Source:           “Appendix to the Minutes and Evidence before the Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland: Appendix X Letters from Irish Emigrants and others, put in by Sir Robert Gore Booth Bart.,” in British Parliamentary Papers, Emigration, v.5, 122-132. 

Dates of creation: 1846-1849 

Biographical sketch/Administrative history

The Select Committee on Colonization from Ireland was established to determine the validity of instating a program which would assist with the immigration of Irish paupers to British North American colonies. It was hoped that in so doing some of the strain would be lifted off of Great Britain, thereby improving wages and conditions in Ireland and creating industrious new workers in the colonies. 

Gore Booth pursued a scheme such as this in 1847, evicting his tenant farmers from Lissidale, Sligo, Ireland, and sponsoring their subsequent passage to Saint John, New Brunswick on three ships, the Aeolus, the Yeoman, and the Lady Sale. Letters written to Sir Gore Booth, his brother Henry Gore Booth, and the family members, by tenants who emigrated under this plan, were used as evidence by the Committee in their deliberations. 

Scope and content

Sponsoring large numbers of tenants to emigrate raised questions regarding Gore Booths intentions. It is easily debated that his purpose was to free up more of his land for pasture and to release himself from the burden of his destitute tenants at a time when the famine was at its worst. The burden of caring for these individuals then fell upon the public purse of the city of Saint John, which struggled with the influx. Others saw it as a philanthropic act, providing new opportunities for the tenants in a colony which needed industrious workers. Differing accounts exist of the conditions which passengers faced, and these letters reveal that dichotomy. Some letters claim that Gore Booth provided adequate provisions for the voyage and arranged for assistance upon their arrival, while others tell of illness and poor conditions during and after the voyage.

Further documentation on the arrival of these immigrants exists in RS555-B1b2a, and RS55-B1b5, wherein the arrival and passage conditions of the Aeolus, Yeoman, and Lady Sale are discussed.  

The letters are arranged in the order in which they appear in the original with some omissions: 

01       Letter from Michael Driscoll, Saint John, N.B., to Sir Robert Gore Booth, 13 June [1847].

As Captain of the ship Aeolus, Driscoll writes to tell Sir Robert Gore Booth of the ships arrival in New Brunswick, the conditions maintained onboard and the circumstances met upon their arrival.           

02        Letter from John Robertson, Saint John, N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 14 July 1847. Robertson was Gore Booth’s agent in charge of the emigrating tenants.

Written to Sir Robert Gore Booth’s brother, Henry, this letter acknowledges the impending arrival of the Yeoman and the Lady Sale in Saint John and preparations being made for their arrival. Discusses issues faced in trying to find employment for passengers of the Aeolus. 

03        Letter from John Robertson, Saint John, N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 29 June 1847.

Informs Sir Robert Gore Booth’s brother, Henry, of Driscoll’s departure on the Aeolus with cargo bound for Ireland. Tells him of the work that is to be had in New Brunswick and the difficulty in getting some passengers to procure it. Mentions the poor condition of other ships and immigrants in comparison to the Aeolus. 

04        Letter from Committee (passengers) of the Ship Aeolus, Saint John, N.B., to Sir Robert Gore Booth, 5 June 1847.

Expresses the passengers thanks to Henry Gore Booth, brother of Robert Gore Booth, for his provisions and the quality of the passage. Describes good voyage conditions, with the exception of a few illnesses and a storm. 

05       Letter from John Purden, Saint John, N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 19 August 1847.

            Written by the Captain of the Yeoman over a number of days after arrival. Informs Gore Booth of the number of passengers on board, 16 stowaways, number of ill and dead and describes the inspections of the ship and passengers made by a doctor and emigration agent.           

06       Letter from Richard Yeats, Saint John, N.B., to Henry Gore Booth, 27 August 1847.

            Informs Gore Booth of Captain Purden’s prudent actions, the fever on board, and John Robertson’s preparations for the immigrants.  

07        Letter from Miss Catherine Bradley, Saint John, N.B., to “Uncle John”, 6 October 1847.

            Expresses her thankfulness for Richard Yeats (see letter 6) finding her employment. Describes her “good situation.” Mentions Catharine and Biddy Hennigan (letter 14). Enquires after, and sends news of friends and family. 

08        Letter from Patt and Cathorine McGowan, Saint John, N.B., to “Brother Roger,” 25 December 1847.

            Describes illness contracted while on voyage, as well as quarantine on Partridge Island. Discusses finding lodging and employment in Saint John. Mentions going to John Robertson, “Merchant who is joined in Merchandise with henery gore…” (letter 02 & 03) to seek employment. Sends news of friends and of prices. 

09        Letter from Bryan Clancy and his sister, Saint John, N.B., to their mother and brother, 17 November 1847.

            Describes regret at leaving Ireland and states “we offten wished we never Seen St. John.” Describes deaths of friends, difficulty finding lodging and employment, and relates that the government wants to send all emigrants sent by Sir Robert Gore Booth and Lord Palmerston back to Ireland, fearing for their wellbeing over the winter. They are living with Patt McGowan and his wife (letter 08) 

10        Letter from John Mullawny, Mary and Margaret, Saint John, New Brunswick, to their father, mother and brothers, 4 July 1847.

            Describes their passage, including illnesses, 35 deaths on board, a storm, and fishing with some sailors off the banks of Newfoundland. John describes his duties onboard the ship and states that all three of them found employment upon arrival. Asks for information regarding home and states that, “…this is a Dull Country.” The letter also alludes to John’s religious functions and faith. 

11        Letter from John, Mary, and Margert Mullowney, Saint John, British North America, to    “Father and Mother,” 22 November 1847.

            States that previous letter sent was received by Sir Robert Gore Booth’s wife and exemplifies difficulties in communication between the immigrants and Ireland. States that fever is killing thousands but that they are in good health. Provides details of neighbours from home who have also immigrated and enquires after friends and family. 

12        Letter from Eliza Quin, New York, to her parents, 22 January 1848.

            Quin enquires after friends, family, and the landlord, Sir Robert Gore Booth. Expresses her happiness at immigrating to New Brunswick and sends her compliments to Lady Gore. 

13        Letter from Ference McGowan, Saint John, N.B., to “Father and Mother,” 13 October 1847.

            Sends news of good health and “plenty of work,” but describes fever on the ship passage. Enquires after family and neighbours and sends news of friends who emigrated. Recommends that no one else take passage at this time due to the large number of immigrants already present and the fever which “is in every house.” States that he intends to go to the United States. Provides rates for common household food stuffs. 

14        Letter from Catherine Hennagan, Saint John, N.B., to her mother and father, 15 February 1848.

            Describes her “favorable passage,” followed by time in quarantine at Partridge Island where illness struck and the death of her daughter Biddy. She describes the suffering of the Irish in particular, stating that “…Pen could not write the distress of the Irish Passengers which arrived here thro Sickness death and distress of every Kin[d].” 

15        Letter from Mary McBride, Newbury Port, Mass., to Mr. William Gifgut, 23 October, unknown year.

            Describes how Mary and her sister arrived in Saint John, travelled to Boston, and then on to Newbury Port. Arranges to send money to Ireland to bring family members to New York. Sends news of friends who immigrated to Saint John.            

16        Letter from  Owen and Honr. Henigan, Hallowell State of Maine, to their son,” 17 March 1848.

            States that, “…miserable St Johns it is allmost as bad as Ireland…” Suggests that their son  should move to Maine as they have.  Sends news of friends who also immigrated. States that “there is Some trouble betwixt Irish folks here”. 

17        Letter from  Mary Feeny and note from Roger Geeny, Saint John, N.B., to father and mother, 3 August 1847.

            Letter describes ease of finding employment and close proximity of John Mullowny and his sisters (letter 10 & 11). Sends news of family and friends who emigrated and enquires after those left behind. Contains a section by Mary Feeny followed by a note from Roger Geeny. Also includes a few lines from John Mullowny to his father, mother and brothers Patt and Mick Mullowny, anxious for word from them. States that he received word that Sir Robert Gore received his last letter to them and would not hand it over   to his parents right away. 

18        Letter from One Boyle, Agusta, Maine, to Mother, 13 December 1847.

            Describes ease of finding employment, the seasonal wages, and the price of some goods. Enquires after friends.